Michigan affairs at a glance: Big Three shut down due to coronavirus fears

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For a few hours anyway, Michigan Manufacturing Association president and CEO John Walsh felt calm on Wednesday, his morale uplifted by the news that Chinese mail carriers supplying US automakers are back in action. line.

“It leaves us with a degree of calm and confidence,” Walsh said. “It’s a horrible situation all over the world, but anytime you can find a reason to feel good, well, that’s good. “

Hours later, the bad news arrived: General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler were temporarily shutting down all of their factories in the United States, a move that nationally will idle about 150,000 workers.

The United Auto Workers Union has pushed for companies to shut down operations due to coronavirus fears.

In Michigan, the movement affects 23,000 Fiat Chrysler workers, 21,500 in assembly and parts facilities for Ford and 16,300 for GM.

Ford closed a factory in Wayne and Fiat Chrysler shut down production at a plant in Sterling Heights Wednesday shortly before the announcement after everyone found an employee who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Honda Motor Co. announced on Wednesday that it was shutting down its North American factories for about a week from Monday.

“Safety first,” Walsh said mid-afternoon. “I was optimistic this morning, but you only know what you know.”

Auto-related manufacturing in Michigan totals $ 40 billion annually, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Manufacturers account for nearly 20 percent of Michigan’s total economic output.

Michigan has more than 600,000 manufacturing workers who earned an average of $ 79,300 in 2017, according to the national association.

Beyond automobiles, Michigan’s more than 11,000 manufacturing companies make many things. Machinery, metal parts, chemicals, and food and beverage manufacturing all produce more than $ 5 billion in annual production in Michigan, according to the national association.

“A lot of this is needed to continue now – and it will continue,” Walsh said.

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Walsh said Michigan manufacturers are working with the state government to identify manufacturers who may be able to upgrade for emergency production of face masks and other personal protective equipment.

“It’s possible,” he said. “It depends on how quickly they can retool. “

In other business developments:

Rising unemployment claims

Unemployment claims this week are up 550% from normal periods expected this year, said Erica Queely, spokesperson for the National Unemployment Insurance Agency.

The increase follows Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s closure this week of bars, restaurants, health clubs and other public spaces.

State shut down Unemployment Agency lobbies, suspended in-person registration and job search requirements, and urged online applications To Michigan.gov/UIA, or by phone at 866-500-0017 Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Related: Coronavirus Layoffs Cascade in Michigan. ‘What will I do?’ workers ask

Due to the pandemic, unemployment benefits are being extended to wworkers who have unforeseen family responsibilities due to school closures; those who have to care for loved ones who fall ill; who are ill, immunocompromised or quarantined and do not have paid medical leave.

Benefits are also being extended from 20 to 26 weeks, and the claim eligibility period will be reduced from 14 to 28 days.

Credit Unions and Banks Prepare to Make an Impact

“There is a great demand for emergency access to cash, and our credit unions will meet it,” said Dave Adams, president and CEO of the Lansing-based Michigan Credit Union League. “Low rate loans with flexible repayment options are something credit unions are good at. “

Adams said he expects many of his 215 member credit unions to start deferring loan payments and offering low or zero percent short-term loans for those experiencing financial difficulties in the process. due to the pandemic.

“In this incredible environment of low interest rates, our credit unions will see unprecedented volumes of mortgage refinancing applications, which will be another way for people to reduce their monthly expenses,” he said. said, noting that Michigan credit unions have $ 60 billion in assets.

Likewise, Huntington Bank said on Wednesday it was offering immediate financial assistance to customers affected by the coronavirus.

Customers and small businesses facing financial hardship related to family illnesses or workplace closures can get deferred payments on loans for up to 90 days with no impact on credit bureaus.

Late fees on consumer and business loan payments are deferred until the end of the month and may extend this suspension if conditions warrant. And actions to take back new vehicles are temporarily suspended.

Fifth Third Bank: Investors survived past pandemics

Fifth Third Bank economists urged investors not to despair despite huge stock market declines: discount mechanisms and prices have fallen to account for the coming economic setback. Just as they started to factor in the downside before it actually started, we should eventually expect markets to start evaluating the possible recovery and further advances, although the answers to the “when” and “when” question. from what level ”will only be known with hindsight.

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